Discrimination in the NHL? A different statistical perspective

Bob Sirois' new book, Le Québec mis en échec, raises the issue of discrimination against French Canadian players at various levels of hockey, including the World Junior Program and the National Hockey League. In his book many of the arguments are of statistical nature. However, as Andrey Podnieks points out on the International Ice Hockey Federation's website, these statistics may be misleading. Namely, Sirois compares the Quebecois population in the NHL to the overall population of the province.

And therein lies the rub. As Podnieks rightly mentions, he instead should use the registered hockey players as basis for comparison as opposed to the overall population. Using this much more salient figure, the claim of discrimination loses much of its steam. For example, in 2005-2006, 17.2% of hockey players in Canada were Quebecois while 17.6% of Canadian players in the NHL were from la Belle Province. That certainly represents a fair share. And, in fact, throughout 2005 to 2008 these numbers remain largely unchanged.

Regardless of statistics, in the ultra competitive world of professional sports, it is almost unfathomable that a coach or manager would pass up a good player simply because of his nationality. While the debate surrounding the issue may eventually lead to a pertinent and useful analysis of the state in hockey in Quebec, the book itself is proof that statistics can be made to tell almost any story. As Homer Simpson once said, "People can invent statistics to prove anything. Sixty-five percent of people know that".